Letter to Canadian Ambassador to Ecuador: Ecuadorian Organizations Denounce Efforts to Promote More Canadian Mining Investment at PDAC

Acción Ecológica et al.

Quito, March 4, 2024

Mr. Stephen Potter
Canadian Ambassador to the Republic of Ecuador

Mr. Ambassador:

We the undersigned community organizations, networks, and social collectives are writing to you to share our concerns regarding “Ecuador Day” that will take place today, March 4th, as part of the 2024 convention of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC). This is a space for the Ecuadorian government to promote Ecuador as a “Mining Destination,” with the participation of President Daniel Noboa. We would also like to express concern about your testimony and comments on February 29 before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on International Trade, which is the body currently studying the free trade negotiations between Canada and Ecuador. 

The experiences of peasant and Indigenous communities and ancestral peoples in whose territories Canadian companies operate are alarming, given the violations of human, collective, and environmental rights. Last year, we denounced these violations in relation to the Loma Larga (Azuay), Fruta del Norte (Zamora Chinchipe), Fierro Urco (Loja and El Oro), Fortuna (Azuay, M. Santiago and Z. Chinchipe) and Warintza (Morona Santiago) projects. https://www.accionecologica.org/tlc-ecuador-canada-nuevo-atentado-a-las-comunidades-los-pueblos-y-la-naturaleza/.

We once more call attention to these violations and express added concern about the Rumiñahui and Betys projects (San Francisco de Pachijal, Pacto, Pichincha province), and the El Domo (Las Naves, Bolívar) and La Plata (Sigchos, Cotopaxi) projects.

In these cases, we have observed for example: administrative irregularities, serious threats to water sources, disregard for popular consultations, violation of the right to free, prior, and informed consultation, violation of the right to self-determination of affected ancestral communities, violation of the right of access to information, a lack of environmental licenses, non-compliance with offers made to the population in order to convince them and other practices of clientelism, resorting to temporary/occasional labour contracts, causing the collapse of bridges or roads due to the circulation of heavy machinery, damage to water systems, housing and health, strategies of community division and internal conflict that alter the social fabric, the creation of peasant associations and boards with people from outside the communities who are paid to pretend to be community supporters and to intimidate those who oppose mining projects, disregard for the impacts of mining on fragile ecosystems such as the páramos, forests and water recharge zones, operation in archaeological and protected areas, damage to biodiversity, contamination of rivers, dumping of chemicals used for subsoil drilling, surveillance of communities with drones, and the unjustified militarization of the Andean Chocó.

Added to all this are death threats, such as the one that occurred in 2020 against then-president of the Shuar Arutam People (PSHA) Josefina Tunki, and multiple cases of prosecution and criminalization of human, collective, and environmental rights defenders. In addition, we have documented serious incidents of state violence against populations who, affirming their status as agricultural producers, refused to be subjected to an environmental consultation that only sought to comply with a formality to expedite the granting of licenses to two mining projects – as occurred in Las Naves and Palo Quemado (Sigchos) between June and July 2023. These events led the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, to state in a communiqué in July 2023 that "people directly affected by mining projects or activities must be heard, not repressed.”

This context in which serious human rights violations are taking place sheds light on the state of conflict over mining projects in peasant and Indigenous territories. The communities reject the possibility that their land and water will be destroyed and polluted, that the social fabric and their ways of life will be dramatically affected, and that conditions for displacement and territorial dispossession will be generated.

Imposing this reality onto other areas and populations – as is the object of promoting Ecuador as a “Mining Destination” at PDAC – is unacceptable. And even more so if this objective goes hand in hand with the formal start of negotiations of the Ecuador-Canada Free Trade Agreement, in which the intent of including the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism has already been expressed (ie. the use of international arbitration as an instrument to attract investment).

Communities, Indigenous Peoples and nations, and citizens of Ecuador have repeatedly expressed their will to defend water and nature when faced with the imposition of mining projects – and have used constitutionally-protected processes such as popular consultations, legal victories, and social protest, guaranteed by Article 98 of the Constitution.

Popular consultations, which are binding and immediately enforceable, have been won. Some examples are:

  • A nationwide popular consultation held in February 2018 included a question about the prohibition, without exception, of all stages of metal mining in protected areas, Intangible Zones, and urban centres. The YES vote obtained 68.62% support.
  • The popular consultation in the Girón canton, held in March 2019, obtained 86.79% support in favour of defending water. This decision affects the Loma Larga project owned by the Canadian company Dundee Precious Metals. 
  • The popular consultation in the canton of Cuenca, held in February 2021 – with more than 80% voter turnout – approved the prohibition of mining activities in the water recharge areas of the Tomebamba, Tarqui, Yanuncay, Machángara and Norcay rivers, which supply the city of Cuenca. These results also have a direct impact on Dundee Precious Metals’ Loma Larga project. 
  • In the popular consultation in the Metropolitan District of Quito, held in August 2023, 68% of the population voted YES to the ban on artisanal, small, medium and industrial-scale mining. This majority support also affects the Rumiñahui and Betys projects owned by the Canadian company Natural Resources, formed by Curimining and Salazar Resources.

We highlight several legal victories that ratify the supremacy of norms that protect human, collective, and environmental rights above the economic interests of corporations: 

  • The decision by the Provincial Court of Azuay to suspend the Río Blanco mining project in 2018 for failure to comply with the communities' right to prior consultation and for affecting El Cajas National Park.
  • The Constitutional Court ruled in 2021 in favour of the rights of nature and prohibited mining activities within the Los Cedros Protected Forest.
  • The Constitutional Court ruled in 2022 in favour of the Sinangoe community of the Ai Cofán people and their rights to free, prior, and informed consultation, as well as their rights to territory, water, health and the rights of nature, all threatened by mining concessions.
  • In September 2022, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling which cancelled the environmental license for the San Carlos Panantza mega-mining project in the territory of the Shuar Arutam people, for failure to carry out a free, prior, and informed consultation with the Shuar people. 
  • In August 2023, the Court of Justice of Azuay suspended the Loma Larga project for non-compliance with free, prior and informed consultation and environmental consultation, and because the project intersects with a protected area.

In addition to all of the above, communities continue to defend their ancestral ways of being by exercising their constitutionally-protected rights (Article 98) in the face of an imposition of mining projects. These projects are tied to a rise in alcoholism, prostitution, drug use, and the presence of criminal gangs that are harassing the population. Furthermore, the attempt to impose environmental consultations through the presence of police and the criminalization of rights defenders is turning these territories into conflict zones. This is harming the social fabric for families and communities who are key to local economic and cultural reproduction, making the communities more vulnerable to the violent imposition of other development projects.

This situation of violence has been denounced by international organizations such as the United Nations in its Fourth Universal Periodic Review of Canada, which showed that in the aforementioned projects, there is a systematic violation of fundamental rights to life, dignity, livelihood, autonomy and freedom. Making matters worse, is that if in the course of militarizing the communal territories of Indigenous peoples and criminalizing rights defenders someone is deprived of their liberty, this can mean a literal death sentence – considering that the prisons in Ecuador have become spaces where massacres take place on a regular basis and where rights defenders have already lost their lives.

Likewise, we denounce and are concerned about how the Canadian Embassy permanently exercises undue economic diplomacy in the interest of Canadian mining companies, ignoring the social and legal legitimacy of Indigenous peoples, closing itself off to dialogue with their representatives (as was the case with the request for a meeting by President of the Shuar Arutam People Jaime Palomino), and fomenting division between communities. Furthermore, it is surprising that the Canadian Embassy and the Government of Ecuador are seeking support for the Warintza mining project at PDAC, which is a project that has been denounced since 2021 before the International Labour Organization and most recently, before the British Columbia Securities Commission, for withholding important information from investors and supporting an environment of impunity for the proven human rights violations committed by Solaris Resources Inc. and associated companies in the Cordillera del Cóndor.

In addition to this, we highlight the irregularities related to the operations of the Canadian oil company Grand Tierra Energy in the Amazon, in particular the violent use of state security forces against the Santa Marianita community (Sucumbíos) in September 2023.

We bring all these concerns to your attention, Mr. Ambassador, because they correspond to a situation about which the Canadian government should be well informed. Canada is part of the Inter-American System for the protection of human rights and as such, must comply with its extraterritorial responsibilities. As organizations, we will continue to mobilize to protect the spaces where we live and denounce corporate abuse, even more so under the framework of the announced Ecuador-Canada Free Trade Agreement. 


Organization signatures
Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Íntag, DECOIN
Frente Antiminero de Pacto
Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano para Vigilar el Cumplimiento de los Derechos Humanos y Derechos de la Naturaleza, en referencia a los procesos mineros en todas sus fases
Acción Ecológica
Asociación de Propietarios de Tierras Rurales del Norte, APT-Norte
Colectivo Teatral Art-os
Quito Sin Minería
Red Ecuador Decide Mejor sin TLC
Federación de Organizaciones del Azuay, FOA
Federación de Organizaciones Indígenas y Campesinas del cantón Sigchos
Asociación Flor de Caña, Palo Quemado
Asociación Agropecuaria La Florida, Palo Quemado
Colectiva de Antropólogas
Pueblo Shuar Arutam
Lluvia Comunicación
Comunidad San Antonio de Cambugán
Comunidad de Wayra Loma
Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo
Oficina pro Defensa de los Derechos de la Naturaleza
Pueblo Wankavilka
Saramanta Warmikuna
Comuna San Juan de Inguincho
Red de Líderes Ángel Shingre
Asamblea Social Permanente de Comunidades Afectadas de Pacayacu y Dureno
Consejo de Defensores de los Derechos Humanos y la Naturaleza
Observatorio de derechos ambientales y de la naturaleza de Pacayacu
Federación Única Nacional de Afiliados al Seguro Social Campesino, FEUNASSC
Unión Nacional Agropecuaria y Pesquera Artesanal por la Soberanía Alimentaria del Ecuador
Foro de Salud Pública del Ecuador
Fundación Cerro Verde
REDLAR Ecuador
Agua y Energía Observatorio
Organización comunitaria de mujeres en resistrenciaSinchi Warmi Río Blanco, Molleturo
Colectivo Raíces, Comuna Río Manta, Manabí
Alianza de Organizaciones por los Derechos Humanos del Ecuador
Federación Provincial de Comunas de El Oro (Bacideles Armijos Serrano, presidente)
Comunidad Patria Nueva, Sucumbíos
Unión de Afectados por Texaco, UDAPT
Amazon Watch
Coordinadora del Programa para América Latina – MiningWatch Canadá
Fundación Savia Roja
Escuela de Mujeres de Agroecología de Kimsacocha
Escuela de Agroecología de La Libertad
Escuela de Agroecología de Guayara
Escuela de Agroecología y de Medicina Ancestral de Hermano Miguel
Asociación de Desarrollo Comunal y Agroecológico de Mujeres de Bulán
Escuela de Agroecología de Tenta
Escuela de Agroecología Sisa Wayra
Escuela de Agroecología, Salud Ancestral y Liderazgo de San Lucas
Escuela de Agroecología Sumak Kawsay
Escuela de Agroecología Asomupkisa
Escuela de Agroecología de Leg Tabacay
Escuela de Agroecología Virgen de la Merced
Escuela de Agroecología y Biosalud de San Marcos
Red Agroecológica del Cañar
Escuela de Agroecología de Jatunpamba
Lina María Espinosa, Amazon Frontlines
Asociación Latinoamericana de Medicina Social ALAMES – Ecuador
Raquel Silva, Unión, Tierra y Vida
Akila Dignidad
Junta de Agua de Victoria del Portete
Radio Kimsacocha
Riksinakuy TV
Agencia Tegantai
Escuela de Mujeres Orquídeas Amazónicas
Observatorio Ciudadano de Servicios Públicos
Julián Villón, Pueblo Puná
Ricardo Ramírez Aguirre, presidente del Frente Nacional por la Salud de los Pueblos del Ecuador
Proyecto sobre Organización, Desarrollo, Educación e Investigación (PODER) -México
Alianza Basura Cero - Ecuador

Individual signatures 
Alberto Acosta, Presidente de la Asamblea Constituyente 2007-2008   1702088822
Rubén Darío Bravo Castillo  0101298115
Floresmilo Simbaña
Mario Unda
Adriana Rodríguez
Erika Arteaga Cruz
René Ponce Holguín, Pueblo Manta
Diocles Zambrano, Defensor de Derechos
Napoleón Saltos. 1702798115
José García Hernández 1759157207
Vivian Isabel Idrovo Mora 1713289070
Fernanda Solíz  0104413414
Iván Maldonado González 1100831252
Luis Ordóñez  1705680013
Marisol Rodríguez Pérez  1709801219
Wilson Roberto Álvarez Bedón  1706369574
Máximo Ramón Hidalgo 1705896874
Elena Cabello  0604176982
Sofía Jarrín  1718410887
David Reyes  1704276367